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Casting Advice

1 Way Thinking on Your Feet Pays Off on Hulu's 'Quick Draw'

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1 Way Thinking on Your Feet Pays Off on Hulu's 'Quick Draw'
Photo Source: Courtesy of Hulu

Having worked with John Lehr and Nancy Hower on other projects (including “10 Items or Less” and “Jailbait” for Crackle), casting director Tim Payne knew right away that he wanted to be involved in “Quick Draw,” an original Hulu series returning for Season 2 Aug. 7. The comedy, set in the Western town of Great Bend, Kansas, in the 1800s, relies completely on improv—so finding actors to populate the show took a special process. Lehr himself plays the leading role, John Henry Hoyle, the Harvard-educated Sheriff with a unique crime-solving style. The creative team drew on their relationships from “10 Items or Less” to cast several roles, including Bob Clendenin as the gambling mortician Vernon Shank and Allison Dunbar as Honey, the prostitute/bar maid/love interest. They also frequently bring in guest stars with whom they’ve worked in the past; "When you fit in their world, they like to hang on to you if possible,” says Payne.

To round out the rest of the cast, Payne starts by putting out a breakdown, followed by lots of pre-reads to see if the actors can really improv. Luckily, producer Evie Peck helps with the process by improvising with the actors so Payne can focus on watching. “Number one I couldn’t do it, but number two I couldn’t watch the actor—I would be trying to think of the next thing to say,” says Payne. If an actor keeps up with Peck, he moves on to audition with Lehr. “Then that’s when you really see who can do it and who can’t.”

Payne has learned that being funny or being a good actor doesn’t necessarily equate with being good at improv. Actors are given nothing to prepare for the audition. Once they arrive, they are verbally given a fake scene scenario for the audition. Because of this, even after the audition process, the actors still don’t know what to expect on set. “[Lehr and Hower] don’t want an actor married to a joke or coming to set with ‘just wait until you see what I’m going to do’ kind of mentality,” Payne explains.

Because “Quick Draw” is a Wild West period piece, Payne also needs actors who look and feel as if they fit in that period. Wardrobe helps, but he is careful to listen to their speech patterns and the things that they reference in the audition process because that will likely come out on screen as well.

One challenging aspect of casting Season 2 was finding a 6-foot tall actor to play Clementine Shank. Having previously cast Colleen Smith in “Super Fun Night” and “Selfie,” Payne was excited to show Smith to Lehr and Hower. “I can’t wait for the producers to see the little gems that we bring in," he says. "To see their faces when ‘You’re never going to find this 6-foot tall gir!’ ‘Oh yes I am, you watch!’” 

Pictured: John Lehr and Bob Clendenin.

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